≡ Menu

Budgeting for higher education

Last year I helped as a projectmanager the Erasmus University (EUR) with the implementation of a budgeting tool. In this linkedin message (Dutch) I announced the ending of my assignment.

The goal of the implementation of a budgeting tool was to make the EUR more agile and effective by having a more streamlined budgeting process.

Using a budgeting software tool supports this goal for three reasons.

1. Better quality of the budget

  • With an integrated database and budgeting rules there are no errors in the data caused by Excel formulas and manual errors.
  • With an centralized integrated database the intercompany settlements are always in check. Also the communication about the settlements is improved and better documented with an approval process.
  • By using a workflow there is more transparency in the proces

2. More possibilities

  • With a tool there is more automation which helps making it easier to make a budget and thus the frequency can increase. Some faculties wanted to do a monthly prognose, instead of quarterly. This gives them a better insight into their financial situation. With a tool they can chose to do this.
  • The centralized integrated database also helps in making better analysis of the budgeting data. And sooner in the process as well. There is no need to ask faculties to send in their data, it is already there! So the central department can help and advise on the best way to budget.
  • With a tool like this it is easier to do several scenarios planning for strategic purposes.

3. User friendliness

  • A big advantage of tool like this is the centralized and automated way of retrieving the financial and personnel data from the administrative source system. It is not necessary to do manual downloads and uploads anymore.
  • Based on the data, the tool can help making predictions on the staff within departments. Retirement information, end of contracts, automatic salary increasements based on number of years in a role, all of these help in setting up a base for the controllers to plan on their staff costs.
  • Better integration of the data within the faculties. Within a faculty there are also interfaculty settlements that are automatically in balance.
  • Within the tool automated consolidation on different levels (interfaculty, intercompany, with external parties) speeds up the reporting on the budget.
  • User friendly functions are available, like copy and distribution of data.

The result

During the project we started a budgeting cycle and used that to improve the functionality of the tool. Based on that experience, there is some insight in how well the benefits materialized.

The start of using the tool was rusty. Due to the pressure of the budgeting cycle timeline, not all functionalities had been implemented at the start, only the most essential. For example the internal settlements were in place, but not fully developed yet. And also some technical issues happened on the software supplier cloud environment. During the process, and thanks to the dedication of the EUR controllers, the issues were all dealt with in a satisfying manner.

Benefits strong for centralized controlling 

After overcoming these difficulties, the benefits started to appear. The intercompany and interfaculty settlement process used to be a source for a lot of errors, not anymore. The integrated centralized database made it possible to communicate about the same figures for help and guidelines clarifications. The workflow helped in giving insight in the status, who is working or reviewing a particular budget. This all helped improve the process considerably, certainly from a central perspective.

Mixed bag for the decentralized controlling

From a more decentralized perspective, the services and faculties,  it was more of a mixed bag. Some of these users had built Excel files over the years that are a system in itself and which are custom made for their needs. The new tool is thus felt as a step backwards when it comes to usability and user friendliness.  During the project we spend a lot of time to improve the tool to make sure that for those users the benefits would also be strong. By the time my assignment ended, the tool was used intensely, but there were also on local level still Excel files being used for specific topics. Hopefully within time and some improvements there will be less need to use these.

All in all, based on the reactions of the users, the benefits are recognized and this tool will help the Erasmus in the future.

To conclude: a budgeting tool has a lot of benefits and improves the budgeting process